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Critical Reception: Liquid Entertainment/Atari's Dragonshard

This week's Critical Reception, a regular column that looks at how the gaming press has received a particularly notable recently released game, covers Dungeons & Dragons-...
This week's Critical Reception, a regular column that looks at how the gaming press has received a particularly notable recently released game, covers Dungeons & Dragons-based RTS Dragonshard, developed by Liquid Entertainment and published by Atari for the PC. Marrying role-playing elements into a real-time strategy set in a D&D world seems to have worked out well; the game was well received with the video game press scoring Dragonshard as an 86% average-rated title, according to review aggregation site GameTab. One of the more distinguishing features of the game is a two-tiered game world, with most of the game's RTS elements occurring above ground, and with role-playing dungeon crawls taking place underground. Each is equally important to resource management as IGN's Steve Butts describes, giving the title an 84% equivalent rating: "There are... compelling reasons to play both above and below ground. Each area has one of the two resources you'll need to drive your economy. Above ground you'll be able to collect the shards that fall from the sky. You'll have to venture below ground to obtain the gold." Another interesting aspect is how the game uses this genre hybridization to drive innovation, as Jason Ocampo of Gamespot explains, while giving the game an 85% average rating: "One of our biggest complaints about most real-time strategy games is that they, almost universally, feature levels where you're not allowed to actually build anything. Instead, you're given a predetermined group of units and then you have to jump through the hoops that the level designer wants you to. There's not much strategy involved in this process, and you're reduced to basically being a rat in a literal maze. However, Dragonshard actually makes these experiences fun, because instead of being treated like a rat in a maze, you feel more like you're playing a traditional RPG. While you're in the underground, you're slaying monsters, gathering loot, undergoing quests, disabling traps, and leveling up to become even more powerful." A common shortcoming brought up by reviewers is the relatively short single-player campaign, as IGN's Butts notes: "Unfortunately, Dragonshard falls a bit short in terms of length. With only two campaigns of seven missions each, most gamers will run through the single player content in a couple of days." But Yahoo! Video Games' Tom Chick has more positive things to say, awarding Dragonshard a 90% equivalent, and commenting evenhandedly: "The single-player game is a pair of serviceable campaigns", before concluding: "The real strength of the game is its skirmish mode and multiplayer... Dragonshard is an ingenious mix of resource management, micromanagement, action, RPG elements, tactics, strategy, innovation, and good old-fashioned D&D atmosphere." With few notable RTS games released this year, and coming alongside positive reviews for the title, the field is open for Dragonshard to succeed for Liquid and Atari, buoyed by enough innovations to set it apart from a relatively sparse field. However, its route to sales success possibly hampered somewhat by reported retail sluggishness in the hardcore PC game market outside of MMO and FPS titles.

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